HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
Christ Reformed Church was organized on February 16, 1902, after preparatory work with the people of the community by the late Rev. Moses N. George. The late Rev. Moore of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, addressed the group of people meeting in the Walnutport Public School House and explained the purpose of the meeting. Rev. Moses N. George was chosen to preside at the meeting and continued organizing with the election of an official Board of the Congregation. This Board or Consistory was comprised of the following persons: Elders -- Wilson W. Walp and Robert H. Mack; Deacons -- Oliver J. Kleintop, Ira Bartholomew, Henry J. Heiney and Frank W. H. Geiss. Those men were installed by Rev.George, who was assisted by Rev. Moore. A committee composed of A. F. Newhart, William H. Danner and A. P. Andrews was appointed to draw up a constitution for the government of the congregation.
The church building was erected in 1903 at a cost not to exceed $2,500; this was financed by the Board of Home Missions of the then Reformed Church and several private individuals. With this burden of indebtedness, the congregation, with its small membership, waged a hard struggle to maintain its existence.
In the latter part of 1910 Rev. Moses N. George relinquished his pastorate to accept a call to a church in Mahanoy City. Replacing Rev. George was the late Rev. Morgan A. Peters of Kenton, Ohio, who was sent to Walnutport to take charge of Christ’s congregation and, at the same time, to organize the First Reformed Church in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Soon after assuming the pastorate at Walnutport, Rev. Peters instituted a campaign to repair the church building and reduce the indebtedness on the church property; this was met with complete success.
In 1912 the church building underwent renovations. Interior walls were papered and the woodwork was refinished. The exterior was also repainted at this time and a substantial reduction on the indebtedness was effected. The congregation and its officers labored unceasingly to eliminate the remaining debt on its property and in 1921 had the satisfaction of seeing their efforts crowned with success with the burning of all mortgages and notes outstanding against the congregation.
In 1925 a more elaborate program of improvements to the church property was undertaken and resulted in a successful conclusion. This program resulted in architectural changes in the interior with the addition of a Chancel, installation of a new lighting system and refinishing of the walls and woodwork. In 1926 new pews and Chancel furniture were purchased and installed.
In 1934, stressing liberty of conscience, authority of the Scriptures, and their common liberal German Protestant heritage, the Reformed Church of the U.S.A. merged with the Evangelical Synod in North America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church; Christ Church thus became Christ Evangelical and Reformed Church.
In 1950 the brass furnishings on the altar, the offering stand, and the baptismal stand were placed in the Chancel. The exterior and interior of the church building were also painted and decorated.
In 1954, during the Supply Pastorate of Dr. Frank W. Teske, D.D., a very extensive program of redecorating the Sanctuary and providing space for the functions of the Girls’ Guild, Sunday School, and Young People was undertaken. This program had its undergirding at the beginning of World War II. Shortly after the war, a committee of church and Sunday School members started a Building Fund for this program. Rubber squirrels were made and sold and other money-making methods adopted. The Girls’ Guild also created a Building Fund and had activities to amass a sizable fund for this program. Some of the highlights of this program were the purchase of an Allen electric organ at a cost of $1,463; the interior of the sanctuary was completely redecorated; a picture of Christ the Good Shepherd was hand-painted above the altar by Clinton Dorward; a completely new electrical system was installed, including new Gothic chandeliers; new carpeting was installed; and a new oil-fuel hot air heating system was installed. Excavation was done under the building and a basement erected for the use of Sunday School, Guild activities, and for social events. This entire program was completed at a cost of approximately $20,000 and was climaxed with a week of Re-Dedication Services from September 25, 1955, through October 2, 1955, with the former President of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, Dr. James E. Wagner, as the speaker for the closing evening. In the next few years, all mortgages and notes for the cost of this building program were paid in full, and a Mortgage Burning Ceremony was held on November 23, 1958. Since that time a Memorial Fund has been established and a Book of Remembrance and a Repository for said book were donated and placed in the Narthex.
In 1957, the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches, which stressed congregational freedom and a continuing reformation, to form the United Church of Christ; our church thus became known as Christ United Church of Christ.
In 1963 the exterior of the church was covered with aluminum siding and the spouting replaced at a cost of $4,669.
Following the death of Rev. George Bickel in 1972, the congregation voted to break away from the Weissport-Walnutport charge and stand on its own as a congregation. The home next to the church was purchased from the Kennell family to be used as a parsonage. Rev. Barry Harbach was installed as the new pastor and was the first pastor to occupy the newly-purchased parsonage. An addition was put on the northwest corner of the parsonage creating an additional bedroom on the second floor and a second bathroom on the first floor.
During the early 1970’s, a capital campaign was organized and new pews were purchased and installed.
A section of the land between the church and parsonage was excavated and an addition was placed on the east side of the church in 1973. This addition included a conference room and office complex and an additional Sunday School room in the basement area. A conference table and chairs and office furniture were purchased.
An Organ Fund was established in December 1976 and a new Allen electronic organ was purchased and dedicated in March 1979. This organ is still in use today.
In 1977, the interior of the church was repainted and new red carpeting laid.
The existing garage at the rear of the property was torn down and a new two-car garage was erected in the early 1980’s. The garage is now used for storage and houses the rummage section of our church bazaars.
The parcel of land on the east side of the parsonage was landscaped and a Living Garden established in August of 1980. All shrubbery was donated by members of the congregation over the next few years.
A new sound system was dedicated in December 1982, a gift from the choirs. Doughnut and candy sales were held to raise the necessary funds.
In 1987, a lighted bulletin board was erected at the front of the church. This was a gift from the parents of Darryl Kirchner and dedicated in his memory in November 1987.
In 1992, following Rev. Harbach’s resignation as pastor, the parsonage was renovated. Renovations included a new roof, painting of the interior walls, installation of new carpeting and replacement of several major appliances. The costs of the renovations, approximately $15,000, were paid completely within a 15-week period.
In the fall of 1999, the interior of the church was repainted and new carpeting laid. Air conditioning was installed in 2000 thanks to a generous gift from Mrs. Elsie Merkle.
In November of 2000 thirteen aisle pew candles were donated by members of the congregation to beautify the church for the Christmas season and other special events. Edwin Ohl designed and built a rack to store the aisle pew candles.
During the summer of 2001 the air conditioner in the conference room was replaced, a gift from Miss Carol Greenzweig. In the fall of 2001, thanks to a very generous donation by Mrs. Elsie Merkle, beautiful new doors with stained glass windows were ordered for the front entrance to the church and for the side front entrance leading to the Sunday School/Social Room area.
In January of 2002, After months of anticipation, the doors were installed. In February a ramp was installed along the side entrance leading to the office/conference room area.
After the arrival of Pastor Brian L .Haas in 2007, the church parsonage was no longer deemed necessary. For a time, the building was rented to a local family. After this family relinquished their rental agreement, a special congregational meeting was held on July 19, 2009 to discuss the matter. It was voted upon and approved by the congregation to proceed with the demolition of the unneeded parsonage building and to reduce expenses. The following members volunteered to form a Parsonage Committee: William Turk, Lynnette Wayda, Lonnie Snyder, Dorothy Curran, Sue Schneck, Dick Thomas, and Pastor Brian Haas. Livengood Excavating of Berlinsville was contracted to demolish parsonage, backfill basement, and rough grading for $11, 500.00 including asbestos inspection and removal. The parsonage building was razed to the ground and the lot rough graded on December 21 and 22, 2009. Top soil was purchased and delivered by Robert N. Snyder of Slatedale. Mr. Lonnie Snyder volunteered to final grade the lot.
In May of 2010, the church received a Walnutport Borough Zoning Permit to erect a wooden church sign on the vacant parsonage lot. Mr. Lonnie Snyder supplied the lumber, designed, and pre-fabricated the sign posts and frame in his home workshop. A work crew of several members later reassembled and installed the structure. An aluminum and vinyl sign, bearing the church name and a new grey and red-colored cross logo was purchased from Jet Signs near Palmerton, Pa. Mr. Lonnie Snyder supplied and installed electric lighting.
Under advisement from the United Church of Christ, and in concern for the safety and protection the adults and children of the congregation from sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment, Pastor Haas and Doneta Merkle established a Safe Church Policy. This policy also contained a procedure for church members to sign for church keys. The policy was approved by the congregation and become effective July 1, 2010.
It was decided upon by the congregation that the 1963 white-colored aluminum siding was weathering beyond repair. In September of 2010, the contractor John J. Shisslak of Bethlehem, Pa. was hired to remove old siding and install a fiber wrapped weather shield, foam insulation and an attractive grey vinyl siding for the cost of $35, 300.00. The siding project was completed by November. Future plans include residing of the garage.
On July 15, 2010 a meeting was held for the establishment of an Internet website. The team decided that the use of this public electronic media was a worthwhile project to compliment its mission of spreading the Word of Christ beyond our congregation, and to make information about the church more readily accessible. Team members included Doneta Merkle, Kasey Wayda, Barbara Beers, Robbie Blocker, Richard Thomas, and Pastor Brian Haas. The design & posting consultant was Stephen D. Haas, son of Pastor Haas. Our new website was published July 2011.
It was decided that the May 19, 2002 revision of Church Constitution & By-Law needed to be reviewed. A Constitution & By-Laws Revision Team established on Jan 10, 2011. Team members included Doneta Merkle, Lynnette Wayda, Len Bishop, and Pastor Brian Haas.
During the spring of 2011 an effort by Richard Thomas, Joel Seip, Doneta Merkle, and George Fritz was under taken to beautify the property with flowers, hedge removal, and decorative landscaping.
In January of 2012 the church garage siding was replaced to match the new church siding. Attic vents and new rain down-spouting was also added.
In the fall of 2012, strong winds from Hurricane Sandy damaged several roofing shingles over the sanctuary. Due to the damage, age and deterioration of the church and garage roof shingles, it was decided by the congregation to begin a re-roofing project. Several members provided generous donations to purchase the supplies. In 2013 Clover Roofing was the contractor initially hired; however, it became necessary for R and B Remodeling to complete phase one of the project.
During the ministry of the Rev. George J. Laubach, Christ Church was a part of the Howertown Charge and in May, 1918, was transferred to the Kreidersville Charge with the Rev. George E. Kopenhaver as Pastor. In January, 1955, during the Pastorate of the Rev. Frank W. Teske, D.D., Christ Church merged with Jacob’s Church, Weissport, forming the Weissport-Walnutport Charge.
When Christ Church split from the Weissport-Walnutport charge in 1977, conjecture was that the congregation would never survive as a single entity. But, Christ Church continues to survive and to bring the Good News to the members of the community due largely to the great leadership and caring congregation that make Christ Church what it is today. May we continue to do God’s will for many years to come
Christ Church continues to survive and to bring the Good News to the members of the community due largely to the leading of the Holy Spirit, great leadership and a caring congregation that makes Christ Church what it is today. With a Christ-centered focus, the church seeks to guide, support and nurture body, mind and spirit. Christ UCC seeks to engage the 21st century as an opportunity to spread the joy, hope and love of the risen Christ. May we continue to do God’s will for many years to come.
PASTORS OF CHRIST UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The following ministers served the congregation as regular or supply pastors from its organization to the present time:
*- Denotes Supply Pastors
|Moses N. George||1902 – February 1911|
|Morgan A. Peters||February 1911 – September 1912|
|Daird Scheirer||September 1912 – January 1914|
|George W. Boyer*||January 1914 – August 1914|
|George J. Laubach||August 1914 – May 1918|
|Hiram A. Frantz*||May 1918 -- April 1919|
|George E. Kopenhaver||April 1919 -- December 1947|
|Charles L. Hahn*||December 1947 – February 1949|
|Ray H. Klingaman||February 1949 – January 1954|
|Frank W. Teske D.D.||January 1954 – February 1955|
|L. V. Hetrick *||February 1955 – May 1955|
|George W. Bickel S.T.M.||May 1955 – February 1972|
|Various Supply Pastors*||February 1972 -- February 1973|
|Barry G. Harbach||February 1973 -- September 1992|
|David H. Rapp*||October 1992 – November 1993|
|Edward T. Schantz||November 1993 – December 1997|
|Various Supply Pastors*||January 1998 – March 1998|
|William Ellsworth*||March 1998 – October 1998|
|Susan Ohl||November 1998 – June 2001|
|Lamar H. Handwerk*||July 2001 – August 4 2002|
|Barry Harbach||November 2002 – June 2006|
|Various Supply Pastors*||July 2006 – Jan 2007|
|Brian L. Haas*||February 2007— September 2007|
|Brian L. Haas||October 2007—- Present|
The labors of the pastors and the congregation yielded fruit abundantly by bringing young people into active membership through confirmation. Rev. Moses N. George in 1905 confirmed ten people. The largest class – 36 people – was confirmed in January 1955 by Rev. Frank W. Teske, D.D. To date there have been more than 900 people confirmed into membership in Christ Church.
HISTORY OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
The spiritual fervor of the people was evidenced, even in the early days, by the organization of a Sunday School on October 9, 1904, during a meeting called by the Rev. Moses N. George. The new organization took the name of The Sunday School Association of the Reformed Church of Walnutport.
Citizens in attendance were: Mr. & Mrs. A. F. Newhart, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Mack, Mr. & Mrs. Lansford Gable, Mrs. George Seip, Mr. O.J. Kleintop, Miss Carrie Minnich, and Miss Iva Minnich. Mr. F. E. Benninger was appointed the first superintendent and served until January 1, 1905, when Mr. A. F. Newhart was elected. He then served until 1912.
Mr. Charles O. Kennel, former Deacon, Elder, and Secretary of the Church for a great many years and a very faithful, active member, then served as superintendent from 1912 to 1937. The Sunday School has been served by a number of faithful superintendents through the years.
Harold Spadt served as treasurer and teacher beginning in 1916; he served in that capacity for a period of approximately 40 years. He was succeeded by Mrs. Mildred Johnson and later by Gene Fritzinger.
Mr. F. E. Benninger served as the first superintendent, serving until January 1, 1905, when Mr. A. F. Newhart was elected. He then served until 1912. Mr. Charles O. Kennell, former Deacon, Elder and Secretary of the Church for a great many years and a very faithful, active member, then served as superintendent from 1912 to 1937. The Sunday School has been served by a number of faithful superintendents through the years including John Rehrig, Claude Kern, Charles Ahner, Barton J. Oplinger and Wheaton Williams.
In April 1953, The Rev. Peck of Fullerton, PA met with some of the young people in the congregation and an adult advisor who were interested in organizing a Youth Fellowship within the church. The Rev. Ray Klingaman was the Pastor at the time in charge of the group and with the aid of Mrs. Klingaman they worked well with the group. In June of that year a ministerial student came to Christ Church from the Board of Home Missions to assist the Pastor, to conduct a Daily Vacation Bible School, and to conduct a survey of the community to determine whether or not it would be advisable for the Board to contribute any funds toward the expansion of Christ Church. This man, Victor Vogel, assisted the Youth Fellowship greatly during his stay in Walnutport.
Charter members were: Carl Oplinger, Darrell Beers, Jack Beers, Raymond Beers, Clayton Wolfe, Richard Williams, Loretta Kaul Newhard, Alma Hofmann Andrews, June Leiby Kern, Ruth Fritzinger Gable, Doris Fritzinger Fox, Nancy Behler Frey, Shirley Smith Rostkowski, Patricia Green Chomko, Barbara Schaffer, and Doris Strohl Snyder.
The first advisors were: Mr. & Mrs. John E. Kirchner. Other advisors were: Miss Bernice Snyder, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Gable, Mr. & Mrs. Marvin Kester, Mr. & Mrs. LeRoy H. Snyder, and Mrs. Lorraine Coffin.
The first officers of this organization were: President, Carl Oplinger; Vice President, Darrell Beers; Secretary, Loretta Kaul Newhard; and Treasurer, Alma Hofmann Andrews.
This group assisted largely in helping the Church meet its obligations and purchased material needs for the Church. The projects they undertook and some major items they purchased were: bake sales, a very successful Sample Fair, they sold Christmas and Easter candy, made and sold birthday calendars, aided in the purchase of an Allen Electric Organ, purchased carpeting, purchased 20 Junior Choir gowns, and purchased a lighted bulletin board along with the senior choir. All young people of junior and senior high school age were welcome to join this fellowship group that met twice a month on a Monday evening.
The Sunday School created a Building Fund and set aside the second Sunday of each month as Building Fund Offering Day. The money amassed in this fund was turned over to the church for the help of the renovation program in 1954-1955. Thereafter, this fund was renamed the Repair Fund and the offering received the second Sunday of each month was placed in this fund and given to the church as needed. All Sunday School funds are now administered through the church treasurer.
According to the earliest financial records available, dated 1911, the average offering per Sunday was $1.90 and the enrollment was 96. By 1955, enrollment had increased to 200 and the average offering was $25.
EARLY SPIRITUAL/FELLOWSHIP ORGANIZATIONS
Organizations emphasizing spiritual desires and Christian Fellowship during the early years were the Sisterhood of Mary and Martha, the Brotherhood of Andrew and Phillip, the Christian Endeavor and the Women’s Guild. Little information is available about the Sisterhood, the Brotherhood and the Christian Endeavor, but the Women’s Guild existed from 1931 until it disbanded a few years ago.
The Girls’ Missionary Guild, as it was known initially, was organized in November, 1931, by Mrs. Clarence Hawk with the following charter members: Erma Acker Henry, Marion Andrews, Tillie Deibert Swartz, Ruth Kleintop, Elsie Phillips Merkle, Mildred Spadt Johnson, Elanora Snyder Griffith, Helen Kennell Morgan, and Bernice Snyder. Three of those members are still active in the church today.
In the beginning they endeavored to raise funds through the sale of candy, etc., and contributed regularly to the Women’s Missionary Society of which they were a part. In 1933, feeling that all funds available should be used for the Church itself in view of needed improvements, they severed their affiliation with the Society and thereafter labored wholly as an organization within the church..
The group presented pageants in the church; conducted bazaars, sample fairs, socials, and picnics; and collected labels and various articles to raise funds. Their first gift was a Christian Flag presented in memory of departed member Marion Andrews in 1933. They also financed the papering and varnishing of the sanctuary in 1940 and the painting of the exterior of the church on two separate occasions; contributed to the cancellation of a note against the Church, for janitor service, utilities, a heater, support of a war orphan, veterans’ hospitals, servicemen of the congregation and tables for the playground; and contributed to all community affairs and charitable organizations such as the Red Cross, Community Chest, etc.
From the beginning of its organization, the Guild was largely responsible for most of the debts incurred for necessary church improvements and, during the early post-war years, felt the dire need of additional room in the Church for Sunday School and special purposes. As the Guild had outgrown the average living room as a meeting place, so had the Sunday School outgrown the Sanctuary. Many of the young people had lost interest because there was no proper space available for their fellowships. Children no longer cared for the Sunday School, as others provided more interesting separate teaching areas; and the elder people drifted from the Church School, claiming there was too much noise due to the entire School (averaging 120) meeting in one room. These reasons caused the Guild to start a Building Fund, which grew to a considerably large sum until 1954, when the major renovation program was started. They assisted in financing a considerable portion of this program. Following the Re-Dedication Services in 1955, they conducted socials, suppers, bake sales, and luncheons for area workers to assist in meeting the financial obligations of our Church.
With the disbanding of the Guild, several other groups in the Church have assumed fund raising and fellowship events, such as the Social Concerns Committee and Women’s Night Out.
Early Men’s Organization
The Brotherhood of Andrew and Philip was a men’s religious order founded in 1888 by Rev. Dr. Rufus W. Miller of Philadelphia. The first chapter was begun in Reading, Pennsylvania on May 4, 1888.
On February 16, 1911 a meeting was held at the home of Mr. A.G. Spadt for the purpose of organizing a local chapter at Christ Reformed Church in Walnutport. Also in attendance were Rev. Morgan Peters, Francis Snyder, Harold Spadt, Erwin Gable, E.J. Sheirer, and G.O. Kennel
The Rev. Morgan Peters, acting as temporary chairman made a motion to organize, the motion was seconded and carried by a unanimous vote.
The following officers were duly elected:
President – Erwin Gable
Vice Pres.- E.J. Sheirer
Secretary - G.O. Kennel
Treasurer – A.G. Spadt
Proposed for membership:
A. F. Newhart, E.J. Smith, Wm. H. Berlin,
G. A. Andrews, and Wm. J. Best.
Chapter # 1187, Brotherhood of Andrew and Philip, Walnutport, Pa, soon thereafter, drafted a Constitution and By-Laws. According to Article II of this constitution states:
“The object of this Brotherhood is to spread Christ’s Kingdom among the younger and older men, to promote the spirit and practice of Christian fellowship in the church and in the varied walks of life, to foster bible study and individual work.
1. The Rule of Prayer is to pray daily for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom among men, and for God’s blessing upon the labors of the Brotherhood.
2. The Rule of Service is to make personal efforts to bring men and boys within the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the service of the Church, prayer meetings and Men’s Bible Classes.”
The Principles of the Brotherhood are express in Article II:
“We accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and King and Andrew and Philip as worthy examples of personal workers, whom we desire to emulate. We declare our faith in the Word of God and our loyalty to Christ Reformed Church.”
It is unclear as to when this Brotherhood disbanded, or how many members were involved. According to the available record books, between February 1911 to November of that first year, approximately one-hundred and eleven members where added to the rolls.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHOIRS
The first organist to serve this congregation was Mr. A. J. Andrews, who was ably assisted by his daughter, Mabon. Others who faithfully served as organists were Mrs. George O. Seip, Miss Verna Scheirer and Mr. Malton D. Deibert.
|Mr. Clayton R. Gable||January 1923 – January 1970|
|Miss Carol Greenzweig||February 1970 - March 2000|
|Mr. Edwin Ohl||March 2000 – June 2001|
|Rev. Susan Ohl directed the choir.||March 2000 – June 2001|
|Mrs. Lauren Krupa||June 2001 – Spring 2002|
|Mrs. Cheryl Sommer||Spring 2002 - Present|
In addition to the Senior Choir, a Junior Choir was formed in 1956 and added a tremendous inspirational contribution to our services. As the children grew older and school activities increased, it became apparent that there were not enough children available to continue the choir and the Junior Choir, therefore, was disbanded.
In the late 1980’s, the Fifth Sunday Choral Society was formed. The group consisted of men and boys who liked to sing. The choir performed whenever there was a fifth Sunday in the month and for special occasions. After Carol Greenzweig retired, the group no longer performed. However, in November of 2000, Carol resumed working with the group. They are now known as the Men’s Choir and perform the last Sunday of the month and on special occasions.
An Agape Choir featuring our teenagers was formed by Rev. Susan Ohl during her pastorate. Following her resignation as pastor of Christ Church, the Agape singers ceased to meet.
The Choirs are self-supporting; Candy sales are held at Easter and Christmas to raise funds to purchase music, choir robes, and other items which might be needed, as well as to support other needs and charities of Christ Church.